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Coach should be reported

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My friend really likes her coach, and she always talks about how she "loves" him. He is 28; she is 13. Whenever I try to talk to her about it, she brings up her neighbors, who got married with a 20-year age difference between them. She says her coach "loves" her too — and that he even gave her a hickey. I tried to tell her mom, but she's OK with it, and she's even trying to help make him like her! I'm really worried about her. —Lauren, 15, Cleveland

I'll be honest with you: I was thinking all was OK until I read the word "hickey." Oy. First off, it's true that if a couple has a 20-year span between them (like, she's 30 and he's 50), they'd be at different life stages — but that would be OK because both would still be adults. (Although, P.S.: Twenty years is still sort of pushing it, even when you're dealing with adults.)

But there is no way the power structure can be equal when one partner is an adult and the other is a child. (I know 13 might not seem like a "child" to you, but in the eyes of the law, and in the greater scheme of things, that is the reality.) That's why if this relationship has really gotten sexual, it isn't just bad judgment (on the guy's part) — it's illegal.

Since your friend's mom isn't stepping in, you have no choice but to report what you know to one of your friend's teachers or to another adult at her school. Teachers are mandatory reporters, which means if they learn of an abusive situation, they have an obligation to call in the authorities and make it stop.

I know it seems like I'm telling you to narc on your friend, but you have to. The fact is, if this guy really is making out with her, she's in an unsafe environment. Your friend will be mad at you, but she'll get over it, and you'd really be making a mistake if you kept quiet. A guy who is going to stoop low enough to make out with someone so much younger and so vulnerable (she looks up to him — he's her coach) might also be comfortable doing other, even more dangerous or threatening things to your friend — or some other girl. Put a stop to this now, before that happens.

Right now I am working full-time as a manager. I like the authority, but I really want to go back to school. I don't know how to break the news, and I'm afraid my boss will be disappointed. What should I say? — Chantha, 20, Fresno, Calif.

It's always hard to break news that you think someone doesn't want to hear — but at the same time, you've got to live your life the way you want to. Otherwise, it stops being your life — and you're giving other people (like your manager) way too much control.

My advice? Rip the Band-Aid off — fast. A good tactic is to start with a compliment, then get to the point quickly. "Thank you so much for the amazing opportunity you have given me here — I've decided that I want to go back to school, so I'm going to give you three weeks notice."

Don't sound unsure or apologetic, because that will just make your boss try to talk you into staying. The bottom line is that you're making a good move — more education is never the type of thing someone regrets. Own your decision, and feel good that you've made it — it will make the conversation easier. Good luck!


Questions may be sent directly to Atoosa Rubenstein at: dearseventeen@hearst.com. Atoosa Rubenstein, the founding editor of CosmoGirl! magazine, is the editor in chief of Seventeen magazine. © 2005 by King Features Syndicate Inc.